Most of the Delaware River Port Authority's unspent $29.9 million in economic-development funds will go to non-transportation projects, according to a plan unveiled Monday.
The biggest payment, $6 million, is slated for a new cancer center at Cooper University Hospital, whose board chairman is South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross.
The DRPA has delayed for more than a year a decision on what to do with its unspent economic-development money, the remnants of about $500 million borrowed and spent over the past 13 years for projects such as sports stadiums, concert halls and museums.
The use of economic-development funds for non-transportation projects has long been a source of controversy for the DRPA, which gets its money primarily from tolls on four bridges linking Philadelphia and South Jersey.
"We're disappointed," said Jenny Robinson, spokeswoman for the AAA-MidAtlantic auto club. "Our position all along has been that the leftover funds should benefit the commuters."
"Some may be worthy projects, but that wasn't really the point of our concerns," she said. "We think the money should go for its intended purpose: to benefit the tollpayers."
The spending plan was okayed by the governors of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, who appoint most of the DRPA board members.
Michael Drewniak, spokesman for Gov. Christie, said the spending was scrutinized by the Governor's Authorities Unit and determined to be for "worthy and appropriate projects - ones that had been in the pipeline and to which we do not object."
"But make no mistake, this is the end of economic development projects for DRPA, which will now focus solely on its core transportation mission in the region," he said.
About $10 million of the remaining uncommitted $29.9 million is to be returned to the DRPA's coffers for use on future capital projects, such as bridge repairs, according to a resolution that is to be considered Wednesday by the DRPA board's finance committee.
The rest, about $19.7 million, is proposed to be spent on these projects:
$6 million: A new cancer center being built at Cooper University Hospital, scheduled for completion in spring 2013.
$4.3 million: Unspecified development in Camden by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, using money left over from $6 million provided by the DRPA to tear down Riverfront State Prison in 2009.
$4 million: Cooper River rowing course improvements and other waterfront amenities planned by the Camden County parks department.
$2 million: Student housing at Rutgers-Camden University.
$2 million: Food Bank of South Jersey.
$1 million: Roadway improvements for an office, residential and commercial development at the PATCO Ferry Avenue Station, near Lourdes Hospital.
$400,000: Stabilization of Gloucester City's Freedom Pier.
The DRPA finance committee will meet in public session at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in the board room of its One Port Center headquarters in Camden, next to the Adventure Aquarium.